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City Lays Off 24, Cuts Overnight Emergency Homeless Services

Homeless

First Posted: 08/03/11 06:46 PM ET Updated: 10/03/11 06:12 AM ET

Owing to their homeless program's state funding being cut in half, the city's Department of Family and Support Services announced Tuesday that they have been forced to lay off 24 employees effective Sept. 1.

The majority of the workers being laid off staffed the overnight, midnight-to-8 a.m. shift, picking up homeless individuals and transporting them to shelters, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Now those individuals will likely go without the city's help during the evening, making an already bad system even worse, according to Julie Dworkin, director of policy for the Chicago Coalition of the Homeless.

"They tell you to go to a hospital or a police station and the van will come to take you to a shelter. But, people often have to wait hours for the van to come," Dworkin told the Sun-Times. "From now on if you call in the middle of the night, you can add another eight hours to your wait."

And the latest cut is only the tip of the iceberg, she said, as Chicago shelters who receive support from the state also saw their funding cut in half as of the new fiscal year, which began July 1.

AFSCME Council 31 represents a majority of the human services workers who received layoff notices and its spokesman, Anders Lindall, criticized the layoffs in a Chicago News Cooperative story as "cut[ting] back on the safety nets for people who are on the streets" at a time and in an economy where they are very much needed. Lindall further added that the funding needed to reverse course and protect the jobs "isn’t daunting in the larger context of the city budget.”

While Anne Sheahan, a spokeswoman for the department, told the Chicago News Cooperative they would continue to push for the funds to be restored, she added that 80 percent of requests they receive for help are received by her office between 8 a.m. and midnight. These cuts, therefore, were determined to leave "the least impact on the people we serve."

Nevertheless, advocates for the city's homeless remain disappointed by these layoffs and further anticipated cuts. They, too, have vowed to continue to push for the funding. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and also said they will be looking for a supplemental appropriation restoring the cuts in the fall veto session, according to a statement last month.

"CCH is very disappointed that state leaders made these cuts, ignoring other means of balancing the budget," wrote Diana Mueller, the coalition's associate policy director of state affairs.

Yesterday, it was announced that the city was eliminating some 97 traffic aide positions, so one has to wonder who will be on the chopping block yet this week as the city continues to attempt to fill a projected $653.7 million budget shortfall.

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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |